WASHINGTON TWP. (Burlington) — The New Jersey Forest Fire Service reiterated Wednesday that it is limiting campers from starting fires on the ground in one of its three regions, in response to persistent dry weather and multiple fires that have charred acres upon acres in recent weeks.

The restrictions, according to Forest Fire Service Chief and state Fire Warden Greg McLaughlin, are applicable for now only to Division "A" covering roughly the northern half of the Garden State, cutting off midway through Mercer and Middlesex counties, and were first announced on the Service's Facebook page last Friday.

McLaughlin said fires in these areas may only be permitted in an "elevated and contained" unit, such as a charcoal grill.

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However, the announcement came amid a Forest Fire Service update on three recent wildfires within Division "B" further south, one just having broken out Tuesday within Wharton State Forest.

Forest Fire Service boundaries
New Jersey Forest Fire Service

That fire and another last month in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest are now considered 100% contained, according to officials Wednesday, but another at Wharton that exceeded 13,000 acres still has less than that percentage weeks after it broke out on Father's Day.

"We left that fire at 95% contained because of some of the low, swampy ground that continues to burn, which is well interior," Shawn Judy, Division B fire warden, said.

Rob Auermuller, Wharton State Forest superintendent, tried Wednesday to put the scope of one of New Jersey's biggest wildfires in years into perspective.

"That fire affected 80 miles of hiking trails and mountain biking trails, 15 miles of our river systems, and completely burned over one of our campgrounds," Auermuller said.

McLaughlin said the peak season for forest fires in New Jersey is usually spring, but it has been pushed a little later this year, and visitors need to be vigilant.

"What we are seeing now and what we are experiencing is a dry pattern with spotty rainfall, and we're also seeing very low humidities," he said. "99% of forest fires, wildfires, are human-caused, and as we know and we've talked about previously, these can be accidental (or) these can be intentional."

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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